Alan Chadwick Describes the Most Beautiful Thing in the World
A memory of Alan Chadwick as told by Greg Haynes
Once, in the garden at Santa Cruz, Alan Chadwick asked me what I thought was the most beautiful thing in the world. I quickly thought of pretty women, large sums of money, and fast cars, but didn’t dare suggest such worldly allurements to Alan, who was no doubt thinking of something lofty and philosophical. When I hesitated and looked at him questioningly, he himself supplied the answer to his own question:
It’s the balance of nature, he said. The incredible, intricate fabric of nature whereby everything exists within its limits, and the grand diversity of all the thousands of species is maintained in one enormous harmony. There is nothing that even approaches the beauty of this great symphony of nature.
But, as you survey the enormity of this one great beauty, he said, you must realize that it is based upon millions and millions of small cruelties. The cruelty of the suffering of the grass as it is eaten by the rabbits, the suffering of the rabbits as they are eaten by the wolves, the suffering of the wolves when they have eaten too many rabbits and so reduced the population so that there is insufficient food for them, and now the wolves themselves are starving.
You see, my dear boy, that it makes absolutely no sense to be sentimental about such things. Nature, in all her wisdom, creates beauty out of sufferings. If, in our pity for the rabbits, we were to destroy the wolves, then the rabbit population would increase to the point of killing off all the grass, and then there would be mass starvation among the very rabbits we tried to protect. We can’t possibly avoid the sufferings of the world. They are the very fabric of the beauty and harmony that we so revere.